From 1985 to 1995, award-winning cartoonist Bill Watterson drew a comic strip entitled Calvin and Hobbes, depicting a six-year-old boy and his stuffed tiger, characters named after sixteenth century French theologian John Calvin and seventeenth century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Perhaps, in our current theological climate, a more relevant (if less humorous) comparison can be made between the afore-mentioned Calvin and the twentieth century Southern Baptist pastor, statesman and scholar Herschel Hobbs.
Juxtaposed below are eight direct quotes from these two men offering readers the opportunity to contrast their views with relative ease to determine which view most accurately reflects one’s own understanding of the Bible and of God’s plan of salvation. The Calvin quotes are from his Institutes of the Christian Religion, with the exception of the final quote, which is from his Commentary on John. The Hobbs quotes are from an essay published in The Alabama Baptist in 1995.
DIVINE DETERMINISM IN SALVATION
Calvin: By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.
Hobbs: Those who follow Calvin say that only the elect believe in Jesus as Savior. As I understand it, the opposite is true. Believers are the elect. I agree with Frank Stagg that election is not “a rigged television show.”
GOD’S DECREE OF REPROBATION
Calvin: The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess.
Hobbs: Calvin held that before the foundation of the world God elected certain individuals to be saved to the neglect of all others. This is contrary to the very nature of God!
THE NATURE OF ELECTION
Calvin: Although it is now sufficiently plain that God by his secret counsel chooses whom he will while he rejects others, his gratuitous election has only been partially explained until we come to the case of single individuals, to whom God not only offers salvation, but so assigns it, that the certainty of the result remains not dubious or suspended.
Hobbs: In essence, Paul says that God elected a plan of salvation (Eph. 1-2) and a people to propagate the plan (Eph. 3.1-6.20). But man is free to accept or reject either or both of them.
MAN’S FREE WILL
Calvin: This movement of the will is not of that description which was for many ages taught and believed—viz. a movement which thereafter leaves us the choice to obey or resist it, but one which affects us efficaciously.
Hobbs: The Bible also teaches the free will of man as a person made in God’s image. To violate man’s free will would make him less than a person, only a puppet dangled on the string of fate. The Bible never teaches that.
GOD OVERPOWERING MAN’S WILL
Calvin: Whenever God is pleased to make way for his providence, he even in external matters so turns and bends the wills of men, that whatever the freedom of their choice may be, it is still subject to the disposal of God.
Hobbs: Man is free to choose but is responsible to God for his choices. Otherwise God Himself is responsible for man’s sin, which is unthinkable!
EVANGELISTIC APPEALS TO THE NON-ELECT
Calvin: It is, indeed, an easy matter to indulge in declamatory complaint on this subject, to say that we are cruelly mocked by the Lord, when he declares that his kindness depends on our wills if we are not masters of our wills—that it would be a strange liberality on the part of God to set his blessings before us, while we have no power of enjoying them—a strange certainty of promises, which, to prevent their ever being fulfilled, are made to depend on an impossibility.
Hobbs: To say that only those chosen by God can believe is to ignore the plain teachings of the New Testament. If this be true, then Jesus’ commission to evangelize the world and the many pleas for lost people to believe in Him for salvation are meaningless.
GOD’S LOVE FOR THE LOST
Calvin: Those, therefore, whom he has created for dishonor during life and destruction at death, that they may be vessels of wrath and examples of severity, in bringing to their doom, he at one time deprives of the means of hearing his word, at another by the preaching of it blinds and stupefies them the more.
Hobbs: God in Christ has done all that even God can do to provide redemption for a lost humanity. But each person through faith in His redeeming Son must receive it for himself. Refusal to do so means such a person is lost without hope.
THE BIBLE VERSE JOHN 3:16
Calvin: Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith.
Hobbs: If all of the Bible was lost except John 3:16, in this gospel within the gospel is the ability to save a lost humanity. And what does it say to us? “For God so loved the world [not certain ones in it], that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever [anyone, anywhere, anytime] believeth [an act of man’s free will] in him should not perish [be lost, destroyed, or go to hell], but have everlasting life.” This is not hyper-Calvinism but the gospel in a nutshell.